Doctrine of Merger in Contempt Proceedings Explained by Madras HC

While deciding the maintainability of a Contempt Petition, after modification of Order in Appeal, Justice N Anand Venkatesh of Madras High Court, explained the doctrine of merger in Contempt Proceedings.

A Contempt Petition was filed on the ground that the respondents have wilfully disobeyed the order passed by the Single Judge. The alleged contemnors pleaded that the Contempt Petition is not maintainable, as the Order of Single Judge as been partially modified by the Division Bench in Appeal.

Justice N Anand Venkatesh observed that “once an order has been passed in the Writ Appeal and the order passed by the Single Judge is modified and the Writ Appeal is partly allowed, the order of the Single Judge merges with the order passed in the Writ Appeal. The doctrine of merger does not make a distinction between an order of reversal, modification or an order of confirmation.”

The Court relied upon the Judgment of Supreme Court in the case of Kunhayammed v. State of Kerala, (2000) 6 SCC 359 page 370 and Shanthi v. T.D. Vishwanathan,(2019) 11 SCC 419 and held that Contempt Petition filed before the Single Judge is not maintainable since the order of the Single Judge has merged with the order passed by the Division Bench in the Writ Appeal. If the petitioner feels that the order has been violated or disobeyed, a Contempt Petition can be maintained only before the Division Bench and not before the Single Judge. Except for giving such liberty, no further orders can be passed by the Court.

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